April 18, 2007 / 3:36 PM / 12 years ago

"Instant face lift" chemical DMAE damages skin cells

In this file photo a patient's jaw is marked before a facial reconstruction operation in Beijing July 27, 2006. A chemical used in cosmetic products promising an "instant face lift" makes wrinkles disappear by damaging skin cells, Canadian researchers report. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A chemical used in cosmetic products promising an “instant face lift” makes wrinkles disappear by damaging skin cells, Canadian researchers report.

“From our point of view the cells are altered. They stop dividing, they stop secreting, and after...24 hours a certain proportion of them die,” Dr. Francois Marceau of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Quebec told Reuters Health.

Marceau, a cell biologist, said he is reluctant to recommend that these products not be used. However, the findings make it clear that more research is needed on how these and similar products work. “I don’t want to scare people,” he added. “The risk is not probably very big, but in my opinion it hasn’t been measured accurately.”

Marceau and his team tested 2-dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) in cultured rabbit and human skin cells. As the researchers predicted, applying the product caused a massive and rapid swelling of the cells as they filled with DMAE and water, leading to a thickening of the epidermal layer. They also found that DMAE was toxic to the skin cells, halting cell division, inhibiting secretion, and killing some cells after 24 hours of exposure.

This “facelift in a jar” chemical is certainly safer than a real facelift, or Botox injections, Marceau noted. Nevertheless, the fact that DMAE and other “cosmeceuticals,” such as triethanolamine, aren’t considered drugs means they are sold with very minimal information about how they work and their toxicity.

“We know far less for these chemicals than for any new drug that has been marketed in the last 30 years,” Marceau said. “What I’d like to see is more science in this field.” These chemicals should be treated as drugs, and many studies, such as of mode of action and toxicology, should be completed before it is marketed.

SOURCE: British Journal of Dermatology, April 2007.

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